As Sir Walter Raleigh said, "Whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself." India was where the riches of the world came from, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The British needed to dispel the threat of other Europeans in Africa to maintain control of India, and they did so efficiently. They quickly gained control of both the major sea routes to India and then turned their eyes to the rest of the continent. Whether the British were trying to foster public support or prevent another nation from becoming a threat, all British actions in Africa were directly or indirectly linked to India.
In the early 1880’s, the powers of Europe started to take control of regions in Africa and set up colonies there. In the beginning, colonization caused the Africans little harm, but before long, the Europeans started to take complete control of wherever they went. The Europeans used their advanced knowledge and technology to easily maneuver through the vast African landscape and used advanced weapons to take control of the African people and their land. The countries that claimed the most land and had the most significant effect on Africa were France, England, Belgium, and Germany. There were many reasons for the European countries to be competing against each other to gain colonies in Africa.
The thirst for power drove the European nations into a frenzy to control the continent based solely on the false belief that they were superior, thereby inflicting numerous evils upon both the African land and its people. Imperialism did benefit a small and favored group, but never the entire nation. For some people, capitalism and imperialism are the same and interpret imperialism as a late stage of capitalism when nations are forced to depend on monopolies in overproduction and surplus capital so that they can compete with other nations. At enormous expense imperialism has created an unsafe increase of markets, and has jeopardized the entire affluence of a nation in stimulating the strong resentment of other nations. During the nineteenth century, Great Britain had a huge empire, extending to many different regions of the globe.
European superpowers exploited Africans and their raw materials. In the 19th century Europe began to industrialize. Europe’s new industry demanded for raw materials. Africa is relatively close and had the resources they needed. In 1882, “The British next seized control of the government as a whole and forcibly reshaped the Egyptian economy from a system based on multiple crops that maintained the country’s self-sufficiency to one that emphasized the production of a few crops.”i Perhaps Great Britain’s invasion of Egypt is the perfect example of the exploitation of raw materials.
Until 1884, no one could encroach upon inner Africa. Before this, the imposing countries had mainly concentrated on the coasts. By 1884 there was road connecting the Congo River to the coast, and the remaining European powers wanted in a piece of the action. The disagreements that resulted from this sudden urge to conquer Africa were what made the Berlin Conference so important (Part IV). Many reasons beyond the obvious also existed.
It shows that the European colonizers used the high ideals of colonization as a cover to allow them to collect whatever wealth they could from Africa. Unlike most novels, Heart of Darkness focus on the evils of colonialism, it also pays attention to the damage that colonization does to the souls of the white colonizers than it does to the black natives.
European Imperialism heavily impacted the African continent through culturally, economic, and political ideas. This era of history is heavily drenched in the aspect of ethnocentrism, which is the belief that one’s own culture is superior that of another. The Europeans colonized Africa believing that they could bring civilization, but they were often ignorant of Africa’s very complex societies. The European powers divided up the continent of Africa among themselves, without any consent from the people who actually lived there. The tribal stratification was changed to a caste system where racial, ethnic, and religious differences were of utmost importance, as delegated by European rule.
By 1885, little to no independent countries existed throughtout the whole African continent. This was due to the imperialism done by strong European countries. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, and Spain are to blame. There are many possible contributing factors as to why the European countries decided to completely carve up Africa, split it up, imperialize the whole of the continent. Because of the need for resources Africa could supply, the European desire for power, and the European's reaction to the White Man's burden, they took control of almost every square mile in Africa through imperialization.
An example of the British controlling the government, in 1809 the created the "Hottentot Law", which required all Africans to carry passes of their name and residence while in public. If they were found without a pass they would be taken by any white for labor purposes. This caused the Africans less freedom because they had to walk around with passes where as they didn't before the British came. The British also took full control the diamond and gold mines so they would receive full profits. They did this by putting rigid policies, like full power over the African labor.
Europe’s desire for more wealth, land, and economic and political power made them scramble for parts of Africa. The Europeans used the idea of imperialism to take over Africa and make it their own. Africa was a very diverse continent, with an abundance of natural resources, trade routes, and lots of land for farming. The Africans also controlled their very own trading networks, and provided their own specialized goods to trade. An example would be the Chokwe people, who devoted themselves to collecting ivory and beeswax in the Angolian Highlands.